Art auction in London: Christie’s auction leaves Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev with a $150 million loss

The sale of works by iconic artists, has a long and messy history and has garnered the interest of many

Mar 23, 2017 | By Staff Writer

Dmitry Rybolovlev

When your fortune is estimated to be somewhere in the billions and you hold the title of being the 12th richest man in Russia, one would think that losing $150 million from the sale of four artworks would barely register on the radar. And yet it has. Back in 2008, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev enlisted the help of Swiss art dealer and Singaporean permanent resident, Yves Bouvier to acquire 38 pieces of art through his storage company Natural le Coultre.

The pieces, which included works by Pablo Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci, cost the Russian an eye-watering US$2 billion and after a lengthy legal battle, Rybolovlev turned to Christie’s to recoup his losses. Having made his fortune in selling fertiliser, Rybolovlev invested in the fine artworks only to claim in 2014 that Bouvier had greatly inflated the prices.

In February 2015, the billionaire filed an official complaint in Monaco where he is based and in Singapore, against Bouvier. His complaint even states that the art dealer pocketed US$1 billion from the sale. The messy legal battle has left not only Bouviers business in dire straits — few would have confidence in doing business with someone accused and arrested for dodgy dealings. In Singapore, the court ruled that Bouvier had attained the paintings as requested by Rybolovlev and that the transacted prices had been agreed upon.

Alas, the sale of Modigliani’s and Monet’s fetched only a fraction of the amount he had paid. The acclaimed auction house is set to sell off five more artworks that the Russian businessman still wishes to get off his hands. Those in the know have hinted that the sale of the artworks by the billionaire is a bid for him to prove to the courts that his claim has merits.

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